If you're female and more than 30 years old, there's a good chance the idea of dabbling with Botox has crossed your mind — even if only fleetingly.

Celebrities love it and millions of everyday women now swear by it, so what could be the harm? After all, none of us is getting any younger…

Not free of hazards

It's human nature for people to focus more on expected “good'' results rather than on the safety risks involved in a cosmetic procedure.

However, concerned surgeons are trying to push the message that just because it is widely accepted, this treatment is certainly not risk-free.

Alarmingly, there are several beauticians in the UAE who perform Botox (medical name Botulinum toxin) injections on their clients, even though they are neither certified, nor even practising nurses.

The most common Botox risks are short-term and can include headache, respiratory infection, flu syndrome, forehead and eyelid drooping and nausea.

Less common risks include symptoms generally associated with the injection such as pain, redness, swelling, bruising, bleeding, numbness, and muscle weakness.

If a patient receives too much Botox in the mouth area, they may experience drooling.

Botox risks can be elevated for people who have neuromuscular disorders or allergic reactions to egg products.

Dr Hassan El Faki, who's been a plastic surgeon in the UAE for 30 years, said that for quality results during the procedure, the Botox solution has to be administered in exact doses and at the precise area of the face.

“During the procedure, you only feel an injection prick with tiny spot of blood coming down; patients don't normally bleed more than that unless the doctor hits a vessel under the skin.

If done properly you can move on with your day normally,'' he said.

A respected American plastic surgeon, Dr Camille Cash, who recently paid a visit to Abu Dhabi to perform various surgeries and therapies on more than 40 patients between the ages of 20 and 60, revealed that about half of her patients were interested in Botox.

Cash, who has had ten Botox therapies herself, said that even though the procedure is less risky than, say, liposuction, getting familiar with a patients medical history and a full check-up prior to the therapy is vital.

This includes weighing the patient, checking their blood pressure and making sure the person is not a heavy smoker or drinker.

Get informed

The therapy is neither appropriate for pregnant and nursing women, she added, nor for patients who suffer from neurological conditions, or those who are taking antibiotics.

She also stressed the difference between Botox and fillers, which many people confuse.

If someone has a crease that is apparent only when frowning or squinting, Botox should be all that is necessary.

Botox is most often used on the forehead, crow's feet and frown lines.

Fillers can be used to improve or enhance facial structures such as filling in acne scars, enhancing cheekbones to make them fuller and more defined, enlarging lips for a fuller, correcting lip deformities or asymmetry, a non-surgical nose job to fill in dips and valleys in the nose bridge and filling in hollows under the eyes that contribute to dark circles.

General advice is that people interested in Botox therapy should not be less than 35 years old.

However, some people may develop frown lines as early as their twenties and may chose to undergo the procedure, said El Faki.

He added if the procedure is done properly, results should start to appear within 72 hours, which is when the patient starts to detect gradual disappearance of wrinkles that should start to become flatter.

Follow up

Both experts advise that it is preferable for the patient to go back for a follow-up visit after the procedure by two weeks to make sure all the wrinkled areas are flat; sometimes the surgeon may have skipped a few little fibres, resulting in the appearance of leftover wrinkles.

In that case, the patient should be offered a complementary injection for the rest of the area that has not relaxed to make sure all the fibres on the face have been paralysed.

Usually the effect stays from four to six months.
And Botox is not cheap. A 100-unit toxin bottle alone costs Dh1,000, which does not include consultation and procedure charges.

Thinking of taking the plunge? Here are points to consider

Talk to your doctor about whether this is the right choice for you.

You will be asked about possible allergies and other criteria that may prohibit you from having the treatment.

Results will be seen in as little as three to seven days and immediate side-effects can include bruising at the injection sites, a headache for 24 hours after the procedure or temporary eyelid drooping.